Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Trains in the news, for all the wrong reasons

This week has been a particularly downer week for rail related news.

It started just over a week ago with a pair of commuter trains colliding in Connecticut, then on the 25th with a collision of two trains in Missouri, then today we have a derailment in Baltimore that resulted in explosions, fire and evacuation and more locally a delay in commuter service for a trespasser strike by a GO train near East Gwillimbury

early this morning.  I'm surprised at how casual people consider railway tracks to be.  I see them all the time crossing them, walking across bridges, walking along the tracks often in enclosed areas.  When I'm out shooting images or vids of trains, sometimes I'm near some high speed areas.  It doesn't take much time for a train doing 70 or so miles an hour to come up on you, especially if it's near a bend in the track as the sound doesn't always make the turn very well.  I'm often caught flat footed trying to get my camera turned on when I finally realize a train is rounding the curve and very often I'll miss the shot, it's often just a matter of seconds.  Even lower speed trains are deceptively fast, and often much quieter if they are powering down.  An approaching GO train at the non-powered is already pretty quiet with the engine 10 cars away, and when powering down it's almost impossible to hear until it's right there.  One hopes the operator is aware enough to blast the horn.

Speaking of the operators and engineers, I can't image being in that position where you see someone on the tracks ahead, you blast the emergency horn and thrown on the brakes but there's no way to stop in time and you have to be there witnessing this from the front row.  It has to be the most stressful aspect of rail work there can be.  It's no wonder the rail security and police are unforgiving when it comes to dealing with tresspassers and barrier crossers.

My main rule for shooting images and vids is to make sure they're taken from legal and safe positions and stress whenever I can that it's a big no-no to venture onto the tracks or poke around inside right-of-ways.

Take this guy for instance:

This is on a busy right-of-way, closed off all around by high ROW fencing, and yet there he is strolling along.  I'm surprised nothing came around the bend at that time and I'd be really curious about how the operator would handle this one, particularly since this is a freight line with large, heavy and hard to stop trains.  Hopefully it would have a non-tragic ending but you can be sure that many of the strikes are exactly like this, someone tresspassing on rail property and right-on-the-tracks at that.

What's more surprising, I see adults taking their kids over bridges and inside fencing onto tracks and I keep thinking they should know better than that.

Railways are risky places.

Monday, 13 May 2013


A brief trip to Ottawa gave me a small bit of time to scout around the local trackage and see what was happening.  Our hotel was a couple of kliks aways from the main VIA Rail station near Vanier Parkway of Tremblant Road.  I had been down that area last year scoping out viewing locations.  A local trail near the transit road offers good sitelines and for westbound traffic out of the station.

I timed it on Sunday morning to catch train #643 on exit.  I had little time for neither running nor fanning so I had to keep my wait period down to a minimum.  I arrived about 5 minutes before departure and had enough time to pick an angle and focus points.  The trail pathway is however on the northerly side of the tracks which means you don't get a direct sunlit view on departure.  Trains will get full sun once they round the bend and turn southward so the morning sun catches them full side, as seen in the Youtube thumbprint.

For this morning, 643 was lead by F40PH unit #6455.  I believe the parked unit on the right is #6415 but hard to tell in the shot hear, the original 1080 vid reveals the numbers a bit better but I'm still not positive if it's 6415 or not.

The departure is quite slow.  The train doesn't start to throttle up until it rounds the bend so it's a fairly quiet pass.  Next time I'm in the area I'll venture down line a bit, there are some level crossings further south that should offer good views and units at higher power output.